Tuesday, 12 August 2008

Why, on balance, I think Russia has acted broadly correctly

On Sunday, I wrote elsewhere (amid a spittle-storm of British Russophobia):

"The view here from Moscow is interesting inasmuch as there is little jingoism from the Russians I know who are jaded by the Caucasus [well, that was Sunday, by Monday morning, while I detected little jingoism, it was plain there was a massive wall of Russian outrage at the attack-on-civilians Georgia has - please let's remember this *fact* initiated last week, unprovoked. Prime Minister Putin - Blair to Medvedev's Queen of England - has tapped brilliantly into this. The guy *does do* domestic PR brilliantly well].

"The West can do nothing. It holds no cards whatsoever at this poker table. It needs Russian oil and gas; it needs Russian leverage over Iran and, indeed, the USA needs Russia's cash to buy US Treasury bonds: the recent Fredie Mac and Fannie Mae crisis revealed Russian sovereign funds were huge holders of their bonds and US Treasuries.

"The four 'frozen conflicts' (Abkhazia, Nagorny-Karabakh and of course South Ossetia; and Transnistria, on the Ukrainian border) may have been defrosted by Kosovo, that's true. There are now plenty of opportunities for Moscow to feed the EU, cold, its Kosovo solution back to them, frozen-conflict-by-frozen-conflict.

"VVP et al have hated Saakashvili for years and have long wanted to take him out; of all the colour-revolution leaders on Russia's borders, he was always too close to Washington. And Saakashvili has *had* to snuggle up close to Washington because he is not nearly as popular amongst Georgians as his suave English-speaking appearances on CNN might have you believe.

"Russia, I think, really *does* want a return to the status quo ante (South Ossetia within Georgia, completely autonomous and [but totally] under the Russian sphere of influence).

"It does *not* want to annex South Ossetia, with Russian North Ossetia. The Kremlin knows that unifying the Ossetian populations won't make them happy Russian citizens; just as much as the Southerners weren't happy to be Georgian. It would lead to an independence movement. [Seen Tuesday evening, I am not sure I think this is so clear-cut. Russia's stand for South Ossetians means, in the short term they would welcome Federation membership. But I still think my analysis holds true for the long term. In any case, a Georgia 'fractured', with territorial claims is, ipso facto permenantly disqualified from NATO membership]

"Russian took years to turn the tide in Chechnya and has no intention of creating a new headache with a 'Greater Ossetia' (not least because, next door, in Russian Ingushetia, there is chronic low-level successionist violence).

"The outcome will be like an Occupied West Bank of Jordan. South Ossetia will be out of Tbbilisi's control but with Russian never attempting to integrate it into Russia.

"The bigger prize, for Moscow (apart from sticking it to the West) will be the inevitable fall of Saakashvili; who made re-integration of South Ossetia into Georgia a key platform of his re-election campaign."

On Monday morning, to a UK political mate I replied (him asking what the pro-Russian 'line-to-take might be):
  1. Georgia fired the first shots by an ill-judged unilateral action to ‘grab back’ South Ossetia and, in the process, killed Russian peacekeepers there (big mistake)
  2. Russia responded to defend the ethnic Ossetian, civilian population and to rout Georgian aggression and seek a return to the status quo ante
  3. Russia’s continued actions today – now that Georgia has been defeated and lost what footholds it had in South Ossetia – are aimed primarily at degrading Georgia’s ability to re-group and once again attack ethnic Ossetian citizens (and are, therefore, not inconsistent with its peacekeeping mandate)
Which I think is how the Kremlin has more or less spun it.

Saakashvili has been a vainglorious fool of iconic proportions. He's done. The Russians don't need to despose him. The Georgians will do it for them.

What I have noticed in the last few days is the rampent one-sided, anti-Russian reporting of this conflict, most notably in the UK and US media (although today I see more balance coming in).

But was has been really depressing is the virulant anti-western sentiment now becomming firmly lodged in modern, bi-lingual, hip Russia. That, I think, is more worrying. If you have Facebook, check out this group which caught my eye because one of my staffers has joined it. If you don't, here are some choice quotes:

We hereby express our allegiance with the Georgian, Osetian and Ukrainian people - who have been forced into an unlikely alliance with the West via puppet governments aimed at destabilizing Russia's sphere of influence. Some of these governments, such as that of Georgia demonstrate blatant disregard for their national purpose and sense of belonging and choose to speak English to the World Body instead of native Georgian. Which beautifully demonstrates where their intentions and directions come from.

We hereby confirm our status as Citizens of the Russian Federation and acknowledge our power.We understand our worth to you as a market, and our worth to our country as its Citizens...We are Russians. We are the first generation to grow up without prejudices...

...Or we can be the first to show the world that Western pop culture is a front for indoctrination of the masses and that other cultures to exist, that the dollar is not the global currency - oil is, and that saying NO to the Anglo Saxon world is very possible.

...For if the worst comes to worse, in the battle for hearts and minds, we will win where you have always lost... Ourmasses mobilize themselves till the last drop of blood. Yours, have to be convinced, and will stop at the first.

...makes you want to weep doesn't it?

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